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Belt’s Beer Garden: Horsing around

Marz Splash and Iron Horse IPA

neon3

As I (almost) always do, I have two more beers to tell you about this week. You’d think I’d have tried nearly every brew out there...but I can assure you there’s still a whole bunch I have yet to get my hands on.

Anyway, up first from the far northwest, Iron Horse.

Iron Horse has called Ellensburg, Washington home for more than a decade now. They pride themselves on not being typical brewers, instead “when it comes to their beer and their lives, they don’t care about rules. They care about innovation, taking risks, and authenticity”. For now, you can only find them in Washington and part of Montana but I wouldn’t be surprised if they expanded their distribution shortly.

While they make six year-round beers, you know I had to choose their IPA as the beer to sample.

Their aptly named “Iron Horse IPA” cost a mere $5.49 for a 22-ounce bomber and had three fingers of airy, yet dense, white foam topping the dark amber (almost copper colored) beer. The massive amount of head was retained quite well as, after a few minutes, there was still a good amount left standing in the middle of the liquid.

On the nose there is a slight dankness to this brew but its main quality is a nutty and piney characteristic from the Chinook hops and crystal malt. Along with the earthy qualities there is a semi-sweet lemon zest quality to it that lingers behind the nuttiness; the Summit and Cascade hops adding a bit of fruity sweetness to it.

Honestly, the smell did not impress me that much…but the flavor sure made up for it.

Up front there was just a tiny fizz from the carbonation to go with the lighter mouthfeel of this IPA. The main flavors didn’t come from the Chinook hops but instead from the Summit and Cascade as the beer was really sweet and citrusy initially. The pale malts, while barely noticeable in the taste, balanced out the hops nicely and created a really smooth beer.

The sweet fruity flavors would last the entirety of the sip but there was more to this beer than just that. Towards the backend, that earthy/nutty flavor did show itself…but it was mild and blended with the other flavors nicely. Just enough to remind you that there were more hops than malt in the beer.

When the liquid was gone, there was no dryness, no sticky aftertaste, no lingering bitterness…it was as if the beer had simply vanished from your taste buds. And that’s a rare feat to accomplish.

At 6% ABV and hauling 62 IBU, this beer is above average in both qualities while still having a lighter taste to it. And, as the beer was emptied from the glass, the remaining foam laced the sides really well; creating not just lines but walls of bubbles that practically covered almost every inch of space between the top of my glass and the remaining liquid.

As the beer warms the nuttiness comes out a bit more in the flavor as it had in the smell. But, for the most part, Iron Horse made a very balanced, easy to drink IPA with nice flavors. I didn’t know how I was going to feel about this one from the aroma but, after trying it, I was pleasantly surprised. 8/10

8 beers

Secondly, I found a new beer from back home in Chicago: Marz’ Splash APA.

Chicago, Marz Community Brewing - who have been featured on here multiple times already - love to make one-batch wonders that you can only find for a limited time and in a limited location (only Chicagoland gets these guys still).

So when I found one of their newer released beers – Splash, an American pale ale – that was “fruity NOT fruited” I knew I had to try it.

Splash poured a hazy golden orange color with just a small dusting, no more than half a finger, of cloudy white head atop the liquid.

This APA was made with a special yeast blend in order to create tropical fruit flavors and aromas that hops alone can not provide…and they weren’t kidding. As soon as I popped the top off the bottle an incredibly sweet, juicy fruit aroma filled my nostrils. Loads of mango, grapefruit, orange, apricot, and even a hit of pineapple were floating around in this beer’s smell.

My first sip followed the smell ALMOST spot on. Up front, there was a mild fizz from the carbonation but then the brew was almost all juicy fruit flavors from there. The medium-bodied beer starts with notes of grapefruit and mango but before long the apricot and orange pushed them aside.

It’s quite amazing that a beer with absolutely no fruit added to it can taste and smell this damn fruity.

At the backend of the taste there was a slight pineapple hop bitterness (50 IBU) and a bready malt flavor that worked to balance all of the other sweet fruit flavors and reminded me that I was, indeed, still drinking a beer and not some alcoholic fruit punch.

After everything was said and done, Splash left just a bit of dryness on my palate with a hint of those hops lingering on as well. It was a very crisp and easy to drink APA.

As the beer was drained from my glass, the 6.0% ABV was hidden behind all that fruit juice and light doughy malt and the little bit of head it had did even less to lace my glass. Only one or two solitary bubbles remained above the surface of the beer after any given sip and, any that did stay up, would slowly slide their way back down towards the liquid below.

Overall this was a very good beer…I just have two gripes about it. First, the price: at $6.99 for a 500 mL (16.9 ounce) bottle it’s something that is hard to enjoy regularly and makes this a one-time thing. I know Marz has always been on the more expensive side of things and all of their beers have been quite good…but I would love to see their prices fall just a tiny bit.

Secondly, for as awesome as the fruit flavors are in this beer (there was no actual fruit added to it), the malt character at the end kind of takes away from all that, especially as you get towards the end of the beer where the bready malt cuts into the tropical flavors more and more.

Otherwise, this is a really good beer (which, as I said, is typical of Marz). If you see it on the shelf, and have the extra $7, grab it before it’s gone…which won’t be long now. 8.5/10

8.5